Northern Ireland news

Meli accused sent to the Crown Court

Christopher Meli

A grieving mother wept in court as three men accused of her son's murder were sent to the Crown Court for trial.

Staring intently at the three alleged killers as they stood side by side in the dock of Lisburn Magistrates Court, Vanessa Meli wept as the charge relating to her son's killing almost three years ago was read out.

Yesterday's Preliminary Enquiry, held in a packed and tense courtroom with a dozen TSG officers keeping watch, is the first time that all eight defendants charged in connection with the death of Christopher Meli have appeared together.

Three Belfast men, Caolan Laverty (19), from Broom Park and 21-year-olds Lee Smyth, from Colinbrook Gardens, and Stephen McCann, from Bernagh Glen, are jointly accused of the murder of Christopher Meli on December 12, 2015.

In addition to the offence of affray, Laverty and Smyth are also charged with attempting to cause grievous bodily harm to Ryan Morris and Steven Woods while Smyth has also been accused of causing actual bodily harm to Mr Morris.

The other five, four men and a woman, are accused of causing an affray with three of the men also being charged with attempted GBH.

The five are:

• Shannon McIwaine (19), from Glenalina Crescent, accused of affray.

• Daniel McManus (19), from Springbank Drive, charged with affray.

• Aaron Stilges (20), from Crumlin, charged with affray, ABH and two counts of attempted GBH.

• Daniel McGrath (20), from Thornhill Crescent, charged with two counts of attempted GBH and affray.

• Gary Samuel Lewis (20), from the Antrim Road, charged with ABH, affray and two counts of attempted GBH.

The body of 20-year-old, father-of-one, Mr Meli was discovered on a pathway in the Glasvey Close area of Twinbrook after he had been beaten to death.

Detectives believe up to 20 people were involved in a number of violent incidents that ended in the murder on grassland known as Doc's Lane.

Freeing each defendant on their own bail of £500, Judge Watters returned the case to the Crown Court at Laganside to be listed on a date to be fixed.

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